How to make the right decision when you're afraid

Tiger photoshopped.jpg

Don't know about you, but I'm scared of a lot of things. Planes, snakes, dark streets, a group of men in hoodies and a bunch of other things.

But ironically the fear that comes up for me the most in my day to day life is my fear of disappointing either myself, my family or my colleagues.

Conscious its been the barrier to following my intuition, I decided to investigate what I can do to overcome it. For months, I've read articles, books and watched videos on how to deal with fear. Though different writers shared slightly different perspectives, one theme connected all of them. The idea is to acknowledge, confront, and fight fear out of our decision making process.

But does this really work?

In my experience, not really.

For example, there's a well known company I've been negotiating a nationwide partnership contract with. Though the partnership made great sense from a branding perspective, on paper the numbers didn't quite add up so we had to reject the offer. After all the hard work my contact made in putting this deal together, I felt nervous about returning with a "no deal" response. Anxious about delivering bad news, I delayed telling him for three business days, not because I was busy but because I didn't know how to tell him. Kind of like not knowing how to break up with a guy that's done nothing wrong.

Being aware of little instances like this helps me see that if this is how I react to even the smallest of things, imagine how fear influencers our choices - whether it's at home or in the office.

And though we know how influential fear is in our day to day lives, it still doesn't answer the big question, which is, "What do you do you when you fear something. However small or big it is?"

The first response our life coaches, and even our friends and family may say is "fight the fear and do it anyway".  And while the cliché "fight your fears" tips have worked for many people, it's never worked for me.

That's because fear isn't a physical thing I can ignore. It's an emotion that is as much a part of me as every other irresistible emotion like sadness, anger, happiness and love. And no matter how positive or negative that emotion is, it's actually really hard to ignore, switch it off or fight it out.

But one approach that has helped me is to imagine fear as the protector of my heart, body and soul. It provokes me to switch on, wise up and protect every ounce of my being. For example, if you fear getting into a serious relationship, it's fear that highlights how scared we are of getting a broken heart. And if we fear lying or being violent to someone, fear is our guide how to stay out of trouble and be the better version of ourselves. It stops us from being wreckless.

The only challenge with fear is its goal is to make us safe, all the time. And like a loving mother that worries for the safety of its child, though it always means well, there are times when it's guess of what the right thing to do is not necessarily always the best thing for us. This is when the idea of taming our fear driving spirit animal - the tiger - comes really in handy.

"How does a tiger come in to this? And why the analogy of a tiger" I hear you wondering. Well... every time I meditate on coping with whatever fear I have (by chanting the mantra "Om Shri Rama Jaya Jaya Rama" which means to be victorious within), I imagine a tiger walking by my side and jumping at anything that could harm me. But in order for it to be helpful and not destructive, it's also my job to ensure it doesn't attack less harmless things.

For example, think of a dream you've had that you haven't yet pursued or fulfilled. This could be to become a writer, a parent, an entrepreneur or whatever. The tiger within us is hypersensitive to the idea of being a failure. However, if we let fear (i.e. our spirit tiger) attack this dream, it's only a matter of time until this dream dies and we give up on it altogether.

If you want your dreams, hopes and wishes to stay alive, you need to find ways to tame the tiger-esque fear within us. And the best way to do that is to move in sync with it. Like your mother. You hear what it has to say because sometimes there is a value to be learned and acknowledged. It does no good to fight these concerns nor kick it to the curb. 

In Tibetan Buddhism, the tiger symbolises unconditional confidence, disciplined awareness, kindness and modesty. If we take these traits, when fear is running through our veins, the hypersensitivity can sharpen our awareness and build confidence during moments we would have otherwise made poor decisions.

When I discovered that fear isn't always a signal to run away but rather a reminder to be sharp, follow my primal instincts and trust my intuition, it became clear that fear can be a great companion. It gives me courage to be on my A game, no matter what.


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